With Thanksgiving and winter break approaching, many students are contemplating how to spend their time off of school. For some, school breaks are not such a break, as they fill their time working, but others choose to take the much-needed rest. To get a better understanding of students’ reasoning behind their choice of whether or not to work during the holidays, I spoke with six fellow Eagles who all had varying experiences.
Staying home for the holidays
For freshman Kathryn Field, the holidays stand for one thing and one thing alone: family time.
“My family likes to spend as much time as possible together during the holiday season, and working would detract from that time,” said Field. “During the rest of the year, we’re all pretty busy, so this is our time to take a break.”
Having worked during the holiday season in the past at Chick-fil-A, Field found that between late night shifts, her coworkers needing assistance covering their shifts and angry customers taking out their stress on employees, working over the holidays was not worth the hassle. She recalled dreading going to work, oftentimes wishing she could simply rest and enjoy the break from classes instead of reporting to work. Remembering feeling tired day in and day out, Field decided not to return to work during the break between semesters this winter.
“Even though our break is pretty long, it’ll be nice to not have to worry about anything during that time and to be able to focus on my family after not seeing them for a while,” said Field.
Now, she treats the holiday season as a time to sit down and enjoy meals with her family, bake all of her favorite holiday treats, visit her extended family, watch classic holiday movies and simply enjoy the company and ability to talk to each other.
Similar to Field, junior business administration major Garrett O’Connor looks forward to being able to spend quality time with his family, as well as with friends who are also home from college. Although O’Connor has not had negative experiences with working during the holidays, the time commitment of a job would impede his ability to attend family activities.
“We usually take a vacation over the holidays as a family,” said O’Connor. “Sometimes our out-of-town family comes to visit us, but most of the time we have to travel to them. Working would prevent me from partaking in those visits.”
Searching for the hustle and bustle
For some, a break from school is the perfect opportunity to earn money to work towards paying for tuition as well as student loans. Sophomore psychology major Isabella Lazarte plans to spend the holiday season working in the food service industry at a local açaí bowl smoothie business in her hometown of Arlington, Va.
Working around 30 hours a week, Lazarte will not have to work on any major holidays, which allows her to celebrate Roman Catholic traditions with her family, such as midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Having worked during the holiday season since high school, Lazarte recalls feeling as if she missed out on typical teenage activities. “There were times that I would miss out on social interactions in high school, games for my school’s sports teams, other affiliated school events, and being in clubs,” she said. “All because I was working 39.5 hours a week at 16, while also attending school.”
Overall, the smoothie-mixing sophomore feels that working has benefited many aspects of her life, although it has also taken away from some. “Working gives me something to do, and I think the sense of productivity and accomplishment helped my mental health a lot,” she said. “The work/school balance at a younger age helped teach me a lot of time management, but it has also made me burn out and at times I’ll lose motivation for school. While having an on-campus job as well as an additional job at home is financially beneficial, it feels like I never truly get a break.”
Back for more
During the break, junior psychology major Skyler Revutin and sophomore biochemistry major Merna Mousa will return to the jobs in their respective hometowns that they left for the fall semester. Luckily, the two do not have issues with their jobs impacting their families’ holiday festivities.
Working 35-40 hours a week as team lead at the local Panera in her hometown of Culpepper, Va., Revutin decided to return for the holiday season to earn extra money to make up for not working while classes are in session. Working around her work schedule, Revutin’s parents do their best to plan festivities that she can attend, including their annual trip to New York City to visit family.
Returning to her local Walmart in Henrico, Va., Mousa does her best to be at home with her loved ones on New Years.
“I don’t like to work on New Years because I think that’s a great time to sit with your family and friends and think back on the year you’ve had together,” said Mousa. “My family isn’t a big fan of me working on New Years, but I always make time for them even if I am stuck working.”
Adding on the hours
For year-round workers like senior business administration major Alicia Butler, who works as a manager at Aerie, adding hours during the holiday is no big deal. Moving to Fredericksburg from Draper, Utah, back in 2021, Butler’s break includes spending quality time with her parents while working 40 hours a week during the holidays.
“This will be around my third year working over the holidays,” said Butler. “Working does make the holidays more stressful as a retail worker because Christmas time is our peak season, meaning it’s extremely busy. But overall, it’s a good distraction from being at home with my family for weeks on end during the break.”